ONE of Britain’s most authoritative ‘Quarterly Business Bulletins’ has just been released by the British Chamber of Commerce – and business confidence in Devon remains strong, with good sales and orders, says Richard Stevens, chair of the Devon Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Stevens, said: “However, increasing inflation is having an affect on profitability. The strong demand for labour continues, and we have difficulties in securing suitable employees with the right skills and experience.”

“In the latest quarterly survey report questions were asked specifically about the employment of European labour and the findings were stark reading, he said. “This is important for 70 per cent of our respondents who are finding it difficult to source suitable recruits.”

“There is a universal desire for companies to be able to secure European sourced labour post Brexit. The Devon Chamber will ensure that these views will be passed onto the British Government.”


The survey asked Devon business members, affiliate and partner organisations around the county, together with 51 other accredited Chambers across the UK to provide regional and national statistics – that will influence local and central policy makers in providing the right support for British industry.

Competition and inflation are the strongest issues impacting on local firms, with 50 per cent of respondents listing as their greatest concerns. The effects of exchange rates and taxation also remain of concern for nearly a quarter of respondents, with concerns about interest rates have fallen back.

Over 50 per cent of businesses reported improved cash flow, with 50 per cent planning to keep investment in training, and 33 per cent of firms expecting the price of their goods and services to increase in the next 3 months.

The size of Devon’s labour force has continued to grow overall with 40 per cent of employers have increased their work force over the last 3 months and only 5 per cent having decreased. The growth is expected to continue with 37 per cent expecting to recruit more staff over the next quarter.

The top 5 countries exported to in the last quarter are, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt. The fall in the value of the pound has stimulated additional export opportunities, and particularly in the manufacturing sectors the survey reveals. Note of caution is the weak pound is resulting in an increase to the cost of materials which is pushing up manufacturing costs.

91 per cent of the respondents of the survey were Chamber members in Devon, with 57 per cent of respondents saying they had less than 25 employees, 32 per cent between 26-150 employees, and 11 per cent over 150 employees.

On the impact of European labour 70 per cent of companies reported they are continuing to seek workers from Europe, however this becoming more difficult as there are fewer people willing to come to the UK to work. 100 per cent of respondents will still want full access to European recruits after Brexit the survey revealed.


George Cowcher, the chief executive of the Devon Chamber of Commerce, said: “The strength of the Devon economy shines through our findings, but there is also evidence of challenges facing local firms. In particular inflationary pressures building up, labour recruitment if Brexit places severe controls on employing European recruits.”

“The Autumn season is well underway and all businesses are looking for strong trading up to the festive holidays. The Devon Chamber is keeping a wary eye on the continuing Brexit negotiations, changes in interest rates, and evidence of wage inflation,” said Mr Cowcher.

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